BATAVIA – Ryan Sterling absorbed some ribbing from Batavia boys tennis doubles partner Adam Maris for sporting a predominantly orange windbreaker after competing Tuesday afternoon.
“He’s wearing an orange jacket against St. Charles East,” Maris said.
“It’s Illini,” answered the Illinois-bound Sterling. “It was College Day today, so I’ve got to rep it.”
Clad mostly in their other primary color, black, the Saints availed themselves well either way in a 4-3 victory against the two-time defending Upstate Eight Conference River Division champs.
“They’ve always been a strong team in conference the last two years, so it’s always a tense match for us,” Saints No. 1 singles standout Jasper Koenen said. “We always want to go out there and win.”
East (9-3, 3-1 UEC River) captured two of three singles matches and split at doubles, where Batavia has been especially effective of late.
The Bulldogs handed Suburban Christian Conference power Marmion a rare dual defeat Monday courtesy of a doubles sweep.
“We didn’t really think about that,” said the Saints’ Steven Waynick, who teamed with Nick Hauptmann for a 6-1, 5-7, 6-3 victory at No. 3 doubles to close the day. “We tried to take it just one match at a time, not really psych ourselves out before the match. We knew they were going to be better than some of the other guys we’ve faced and just kind of took that into consideration.”
Batavia (12-3, 1-1) earned doubles wins behind Maris and Sterling in the top slot and the No. 2 tandem of Josh Boyle and Jeff Lorden. East’s fourth tandem of Chris Horn and Stefan Cvarkovic also was victorious.
Those matches ended swiftly compared to those at No. 3 doubles and second singles, the only competitions to split the first two sets. As athletes briefly took water breaks outside the court, their coaches updated them on the stakes.
East captured three of the five matches that went straight sets. The Bulldogs needed to take both remaining matches to defend their home court, but only Drake Swift, a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 winner at No. 2 singles, obliged.
East’s victory added further intrigue to the conference race, which includes unbeaten St. Charles North. The North Stars defeated the host Saints, 4-3, earlier this month, and are set to visit the Bulldogs on May 8.
“We all know that we can all beat each other, so everybody, all three of us, have that target,” Maris said. “We want to beat them and them. And they want to beat us and each other. So it’s kind of a three-way target, almost.”
No stranger to extra attention, Koenen, a Michigan State-bound senior, cruised, 6-0, 6-1, against Tim Murat.
Unbeaten this season and four wins shy of his 100th career victory – he could claim it next week against Geneva on his 18th birthday – Koenen maintains a steady approach. He hasn’t been under duress much this spring, but has responded when in peril.
Trailing 2-4 and love-40 against Rolling Meadows sophomore Mack Galvin at the Mustangs’ Invitational in mid-April, he recovered for a 6-4, 6-1 win.
“Just keep rolling along each match and just keep doing what I’m doing,” Koenen said. “It’s working. Just each match, look at it the same, just go out there and compete.”